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UMD Students Advance to Global Finals in Programming Competition

By Samuel Malede Zewdu

A team of University of Maryland computer science students advanced to the global finals of the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) this fall with a third-place finish last month at the North American Championship, coming in second among U.S. competitors and securing UMD’s best-ever finish in the competition.

The ICPC is the oldest, largest and most esteemed programming contest worldwide, boasting a vast alumni network that includes Google co-founder Sergey Brin ’93. In the past year alone, the contest attracted 58,973 competitors from 3,407 universities in 104 countries.

The UMD team was composed of sophomore computer science major Colin Galen ’24 and Ph.D. students Mohammed Mahdavi and Keivan Rezaei. Under the guidance of their coach, computer science Professor Mohammad Hajiaghayi, and assistant coach, computer science Ph.D. student Peyman Jabbarzade, the trio showcased exceptional problem-solving abilities and teamwork throughout the contest—“the Olympics of programming,” Hajiaghayi said. “I was thrilled about our achievement because the competition requires immense effort and skills,” said the coach, who holds the Jack and Rita G. Minker Professorship and a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. “However, I can say that I was confident that our students had the winning formula from the beginning.”

The championship, hosted by the University of Central Florida, brought together 51 teams from top universities across the United States and Canada. The UMD team’s outstanding performance earned itthe South Division Championship title, scoring higher than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Harvard University. UMD will compete in the ICPC World Finals in Egypt in November.

“Even placing in the top six would have been an outstanding performance, let alone reaching the top three,” Galen said. “We are elated with the result, particularly because it was a collective effort. However, our focus now shifts toward performing strongly at the World Finals in November and aiming for a medal position (in the top 12 finishers) there.”

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